S1E03: Did we actually meet at an MLM Cult? Toxic Positivity Episode

No, no, this isn’t an episode of the LuLa Roe Drama – or a typical MLM! We want to dive into the psychology of Toxic Positivity and how to potentially identify it in the workplace!

If you want to check some of the research we read, you can find it here and you can read more about toxic positivity here

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Oh yeah.Speaker 2: 53:32

All these different shirts. No, that was the other Brian. That was T-shirt Brian Oh.Speaker 1: 53:37

T-shirt Brian. Oh my God, yeah, brian with the insurgents was very funny.Speaker 2: 53:41

Yeah, um, we had the lady with four million jobs. Do you remember that one Mm? hmm, i know Where she had like what was it Like? 47.Speaker 1: 53:54

Like her first. Like her first line out of the box was like I’ve had 46 jobs in the past 30 years and we’re like what.Speaker 2: 54:05

We’ve got Amy, who talks to us about toxic positivity, which is pretty cool, and then we had Stu, who was our most recent recording, yeah, talking about leadership, which I’m pretty bloody excited about.Speaker 1: 54:20

And now so we’ll be doing some more interviews, but also sprinkling in some of the research episodes.Speaker 2: 54:25

Yeah, and then we’ll be doing some research episodes is going to like is our next kind of step right? That’s our evolution.Speaker 1: 54:33

And we’ll see what happens. We’ll see what you guys like more And if you have any comments, thoughts, reactions, just reach out to us.Speaker 2: 54:39

Yeah, We really appreciate everybody’s comments. Yeah, We’ve had. I just, I just get so excited when someone comments, So if you could comment like like subscribe, share follow all those good things. Come join us on LinkedIn. Come join us on.Speaker 3: 54:55

Instagram, yeah, yeah Find us a good place.Speaker 4: 54:57

We’d be happy to have you.Speaker 2: 54:59

And we’ll see you in season two. Couple weeks, yeah, yeah, a couple weeks. Thank you for joining us today. If you would like to share your story, we would love to hear from you.Speaker 1: 55:10

Also, leaving a review helps us create more content because it shows us there’s an interest in this topic.Speaker 2: 55:16

For those of our listeners who do better with reading, we have closed caption available on YouTube.Speaker 1: 55:20

See you next week, same time and same place.

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Read our Transcript

Nicola 1:22
The last part of what we’re talking about today, and it’s the MLM vibe. Right. And I know we’ve both done a bit of research around this because I think we I think for the both of us, we really wanted to understand how we got sucked in to the toxic environments. And we absolutely I think agree on the fact that it was toxic positivity. And according to better app.com They describe toxic positivity is the pressure to only display positive emotions, suppressing any negative emotions, feelings, reactions, or experiences. And it eventually invalidates your human experience. And it can lead to trauma, isolation, unhealthy coping mechanisms. And for me, in one of my one on ones with the CEO, I actually raised this as a corporate risk. I said multiple times that this would result in us not getting honest delivery, our communications, we’re having issues, being positive all the time is really just meaning that we’re lying about how we’re really doing in fear of not being positive enough. And that the toxic positivity also flowed through to the customer base. And it was seriously and I’m not kidding, it’s almost cult like. And I remember a customer highlighting this issue of toxic positivity. And they were just shut down in, you know, the community that they were in because people just couldn’t wrap their heads around what toxic positivity actually meant, and how invalidating it was to people’s experiences, because everybody only spoke positively of this company. And I think the reputational risk, there was a huge issue and there was nothing in place to, you know, kind of mitigate, if that reputational risk was laid out of the box.

Gina 3:25
Basically, I got fired. Because I refuse to be toxically positive. It wasn’t even that I refuse i This is not who I am, I can’t like it’s not my nature,

Nicola 3:38
hiring from the same pool of friends, former colleagues and alumni network, all the staff members other than you and I potentially, were from the same school, same church group, family members with little or no experience, and they will often put in these executive positions. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great way to learn. Like, all hands on deck, let’s learn a new talent. And there was always commentary around how work it’s like a family. We’re all friends. Like we’re so close. It’s tight knit.

Gina 4:14
What I did, and I didn’t know a lot of this until towards the end of my time there that most of these people were either direct family members, or they were all hired from a Midwestern base church group. I’m used to working with people who have no problem with me send me an email that doesn’t have a fluffy greeting and just disseminates information.

Nicola 4:39
Like I’m South African, right we’re just like scraped down the Senate. You want to hear it? I’m going to tell it to you. Tough today’s right. But that’s how sometimes like look, you can be softer granted, like I’m not saying be an asshole, but most of the time to the point it’s like okay, coming down. Oh, there’s an issue. Okay, let’s get it done. There’s no Hey, Gina, hope you having a wonderful day. I’m really thinking of your thoughtful thoughts and well and would you like me to, you know, massage your clip while you’re reading this email? Or like,

Gina 5:13
do you like one pie or two ply? Your whatever they need to know.

Nicola 5:18
Does our brain need to know? Oh, and you we have an issue over here. Yeah.

Gina 5:23
Oh, and just a small little thing after we talk about your toilet paper preference, um, the deliveries blowing up and no one knows where the cargo is. So when you have a moment, which talks about it, if you could, if you can’t No big deal, I’d be like, Yo, I don’t know where the cargo is. Somebody tells me where it is. But I think you know, you hit on this word cult like, and let’s talk a little bit about the psychology of this. So I am not a psychologist. Let’s carry on neither isn’t Nicola. But this company, again was very culty and it reminds both of us of a pyramid scheme or an MLM. So Nicola did a little deep dive here. And she has common traits of MLM and this organisation side by side. So,

Nicola 6:19
so one of the things around multi level marketing or you know, pyramid schemes or whatever, they have actually a lot in common with religious cults. They’ve got this psychology of religious cults and they can be, you know, considered secular or a commercial cult. And like most cults, they often depend heavily on the personality of the group leader. Oh, my God. Here is typically a charismatic person with the ability to motivate and inspire.

Gina 6:50
Oh my god, the next line has Oh my god.

Nicola 6:53
Motivational activities often include slogans, which readings and ham are involved and encouraged to repeat a daily which we did ritualised behaviours, the elevation of particularly loyal members to positions of authority, where they’re encouraged to recruit new members, and richly rewarded to do so. So now you’ve got this whole team environment, we’ve got people that all know each other and their recruiting and people that they know. And that’s where the How is this not

Gina 7:28
an MLM or religious cult?

Nicola 7:30
Oh, for sure. There is a degree of secrecy around the activities. So again, lack of transparency. And, you know, I was while I was on this research kick, there was a guy called Robert seal, Dini, and he wrote a book called, Influence The Psychology of Persuasion, which has been quoted quite a lot by marketing experts. And he provides some scientific evidence of why we make decisions and make us like what makes us susceptible to being duped. And some of the story is, well, obviously, you know, data to take place in the 1960s and 70s. But realistically, psychology doesn’t change too much over time, right? Anyway, his big thing was the porosity there, yeah. And the desire to give when something is received commitment, a desire to stay consistent with what you’ve already agreed to do social proof desire to follow what others do, liking desire to act the same as those who are similar to you, or authority, desire to trust the experience and scarcity, desire to have something that isn’t limited quality. So those are kind of the persuasion techniques that were used or employed by this organisation to have people kind of in their culty commercial mass. Then I went down another rabbit hole Gina, and we kind of went into some of the MLM spaces and MLM absolute or authoritarianism, without accountability. So when asked by when asked about like psychological financial hardship that some, you know, MLM people’s face, one person from Lulu route Now, realistically, we don’t know anything about these MLMs. Right, we’re just kind of quoting the research that we’ve read. What the leaders would say is retail is not for everyone, retailers on their own business can make their own decisions. The success of any business depends on the leaders own respective and independent business goals, and the strategies they employ to achieve those goals. However, we essentially we couldn’t do anything without the CEO or the CEOs knowledge. There was no trust for us to be able to do anything. So that authoritarianism without accountability because they weren’t held accountable for any of their targets or deliverables. That was you know, 101 MLM one on ones,

Gina 10:02
they’re basically saying like, in the LuLaRoe thing. They’re saying like, the participants who buy the leggings from this MLM company, it’s up to them to be successful. Yeah. Which is exactly what you’re saying, because we will be tasked with all these things. And then even if at the last minute, everything changed because of the C CEO or the CFO messed something up, we would we would be the ones who were not to fix it, there will be no help from anyone else. Yeah.

Nicola 10:38
No tolerance for questions or quit critical inquiry. So most companies, when facing backlash from their employers would try and address any claims that their employees might have. Multilevel marketing, however, teach their employees to shame anybody who says a bad word about the company. And this was absolutely the case here. No one could say anything negative about the business, it was all the best products, the best details, the best information, internally or externally. And when customers made complaints or highlighted issues, it was glossed over with free products. niceties was totally fake, and totally misleading. I don’t

Gina 11:19
know how they made any profit at the end of the day, because they would have to replace so much shit. I mean, the amount they were spending on shipping, like it was just an

Nicola 11:30

Gina 11:32
it is it is. All right. All right. What is the next point unreasonable fear about the outside world go? Let me hear a word bunker is in there. So I’m down.

Nicola 11:45
Okay, so we know that MLMs aren’t locking people up in bankers, and telling them that the world has ended bad way. They’re promoting fear about the work world outside and isolating the people that sell their products. While this wasn’t directly the case, brand loyalty was promoted internally, externally so hard, that anything that couldn’t be anything wrong with the brand. And essentially, we were isolated from the outside world with piles of to do items, deadlines, reactive responses to issues, customer experiences, complaints, etc, etc. And we lived and breathed the cult, so we didn’t even have time to consider there was an outside world,

Gina 12:28
or that there might be something wrong with the cult, or that

Nicola 12:31
they might or that we have been sucked into a cult.

Gina 12:34
Yeah, like, when you’re so busy, and you don’t have perspective. It’s easy to see how the red flags didn’t really stand out to us at first. Exactly.

Nicola 12:47
So on to number, like the last number, right? Former members often relate the same stories of abuse.

Gina 12:56
That’s what you and I are doing right now.

Nicola 12:59
So for those who managed to make it out of these multilevel marketing really rarely have good things to say. The internet is full of former MLM members warning others about the deception of these companies. And here you have, as I had not spoken to not one single person about my experience until we spoke.

Gina 13:22
I mean, I spoke to my partner and the people in my house like support system, which is basically my mom and like my best friend Megan, who we’re going to hear from at some point, her story is absolutely insane. You can look forward to like anonymous emails being sent to her workplace nakedness. Legal action already, there’s so much it has everything. But yeah, I mean, look, I mean, this exactly. This is what we’re doing right now. We’re finally saying like, Yeah, this is what what we had going on. There was not okay.

Nicola 14:03
It wasn’t okay. And it was only really once we left that it was really clear how not okay, it was

Gina 14:11
agreed, like, and that that was it. For me. It was like, I was like being I wasn’t listening to my gut. And that’s what I’m most annoyed about. Because I knew something was up like I was changing how I was talking to people. I felt like shit, I looked like shit. I was barely eating like, I remember you told me when we first started working together there. You were like, I had to pay someone to remind me to eat. And I was like, what? And then like, fast. I would have like a minute to eat like a slice of bread with peanut butter on it for lunch. I know. I was like I get it now.

Nicola 14:47
I think like I get it. I think one of the one of the other toxic traits of this business and you know I’ve come from a variety of industries, not just like one or two of the same industry I’ve come from a variety of industries is, and you and I kind of disagree a little bit on this, but we kind of agree a little bit on this as well is, regardless of the business you’re in, it is important to have a framework that supports the work that you do. And you know, this, especially coming from OSHA, we’ve got a tonne of management frameworks that are required by law required by regulation required by, you know, a whole bunch of different reasons, we have systems in place. But if there is a tool that stifles or diminishes your ability to grow and expand, I think that’s a big issue or a big red flag. And I think one of the key elements of the tool, you know, the kind of management system tool that we discussed was when you’re stuck in a toxic culture, the only issues you’re going to bring on ones that are going to be solvable, because you don’t want to cause problems because of the toxic positive culture. And realistically, you don’t want to hear about improvements, you only want to, you know, maintain a lack of momentum, and almost like a fake feeling of growth, when in reality, that wasn’t the case. And, you know, when other were on the outside, you know, we weren’t related to any of their church groups or the family members. And I think it was easy for them to let us go because, you know, easy way to get those salary costs back. And also, we weren’t

Gina 16:33
tied in, you know, yeah, we weren’t really part of the fold. And especially me, like I like you had started as a customer, I didn’t even know that this company existed. Yeah, it was like, Who the hell are these people,

Nicola 16:46
it’s empty.

Gina 16:49
And I actually think we do agree, because my issue was the entire management system that this company bought, because you have to buy a consultant, you have to buy yourself into conventions, you have to buy the software that is super Elementary,

Nicola 17:10
which you can do what has out, you don’t have to get a software to do this.

Gina 17:14
Or you don’t have to get a software to do a fucking meeting, if you’re all like, executive leaders, and you all have corporate experience. So this ties back into them not having experienced, like, if you are the owner of a business and you came up with the idea, and you are not a business person, you hire a CEO, you hire a COO. Okay, that’s going to purchase some Flim Flam me dumb, like management system that is essentially like, let’s go to conventions. Let’s have, you know, so and so br consultant and he comes on once a month or once every three months and doesn’t remember any of our names or what our company actually does, but let’s pay for this. You know, so that management system I really had an issue with, like, I really it was very like off putting to me. I think the overall idea of it, like I get it, but just hire people if you if you have enough money to buy this management system, you have enough money to pay people who actually know what they’re doing in this space. Yeah. And I also feel like it was also exploited by the CFO and see like we would all come up with a decision in this you know, man management MLM System where everyone was agreement and then exactly like what Nicola Nicola said, the moment the meeting was closed, we were being told to do the exact opposite, or they, they were changing the due date. So it’s like, if you’re gonna buy this management system, you have to use it as it’s made. If you have any shot, if you’re going, like, if you’re gonna go back and change everything we all just discussed. How is this? How is this even like, being used properly? Like, maybe the system is good, but if I don’t think it was a good system, I think it was very, like, one of the things we’re like, Okay, again, Dr. Seuss.

Nicola 19:24
We were you innovating and delegating to your right because you’ve got for you particularly my team was pretty clearly right I had a really good team but for you, particularly who you delegating to someone that can’t do the job,

Gina 19:36
and now has that position back but was never formally trained and is like, I remember the first part of one of the first interviews I had this CEO said, the person who who got demoted essentially was like, she’s like the most direct type of person When emailing and I’m like, No, she’s not. And also, she was like the CEO was Like, she takes the most time off, she’s always off or out of the office. That was like one of the first things she said about this person, like, I’ve never met this person, I don’t know who it is. It’s so inappropriate. Like, why do I need to know this? Anyway, you’ll,

Nicola 20:15
you’ll report like, did you learn? What could you have done differently? Because for me, there’s just so fucking much I could have done differently looking back. I, you know, I could have chosen not to become as emotionally invested, put in better business frameworks, I’m skilled in business frameworks, I could have put in better business frameworks at the gate core, pushed for upskilling, you know, learning about toxic positivity and bias, because there was huge bias going on. And I think for both you and I, in some ways, we absolutely perpetuated that toxic, I agree, but in different ways, you know, and for one, I know, the CEO would approach me to fix an issue. And I could have easily pushed back and said, actually, that’s so and so’s job, can they be given a chance to do the job, rather than just solve the issue for them or stopped, you know, gossipy bullshit in its tracks and pushed harder for more, you know, fundamental business practices? And, you know, absolutely looking back I fell 100% victim to the feeling of being needed to fix almost anything by the

Gina 21:25
charismatic leader, by the charismatic cult leader. I mean, it’s not wrong. No, for me, I, you know, I’ve always told the people who are important in my life, like, some of the biggest, like, key ideas for me as just me as a human being is, things are not personal. Listen to what people are saying, and telling you whether it’s their words, or what they’re actually doing. And no response is a response. I love that one, for sure. So for me, I didn’t listen to my own advice. Like, I’m usually pretty good at it, because I’ve made so many poor decisions. And so many, like weird things happened to me throughout my life. But I did not listen to what people were telling me. I didn’t. And I didn’t listen to my gut. So you know, when some of the first conversations I had after being employed was the CEO telling me everyone was replaceable. Talking about somebody on my team, who I should have realised that also applies to me. I mean, I know that intellectually, but for some reason, in the context of this conversation, it was presented in a way, like you’re not replaceable, but so and so is, and at the end of the day, that person was the one who got me replaced. You know, or from the very beginning, my team hated me that, you know,

Nicola 22:57
yet because they did change management, there was no transparent communication about why you were being brought in.

Gina 23:05
Right? So I think, for me, it was more like, I need to take my own advice, and I need to listen to my gut. Yeah. But I think my ego was also involved, because they set it up in such a way that they had a lot of expectations of me, and I could have lived up to them had we not been in, and I think I did, but they just didn’t really like, in a lot of ways, I did make a lot of positive changes. And I think most of the items that I worked on while I was there, like didn’t have any issues like sold out, like I think that we we were trending in a good direction, but I don’t think they’re there anymore. I think I just should have listened, you know, but like, my ego was also like, I was hired to do this job. I’m gonna stay and do the job and prove to all these people that I can do this job. Yeah. So that was that’s a little bit of like, my own issues. Like, I don’t have to be the best in the room. Like, I can be good. And that’s good enough. I don’t have to feel like I’m smarter than everyone all the time. Because I know that I’m not. So I think for me, I it’s a little bit of ego balancing, but also listening. Yeah, listening and believing what people are telling you when they tell it to you. So,

Nicola 24:27
you know, kind of we’re kind of coming to the end and then we’re kind of wrapping up and after 617

Gina 24:32
hour days of fun earned. Luck has no Anyway, go ahead. Yeah, I’m kind of what what do

Nicola 24:41
you think like our listeners can expect in 2023? Like, what are they getting from us in our first season?

Gina 24:48
So you’re gonna get some insane toxic workplace stories that are going to be a lot more anecdotal than how Nicola and I sort of just went through this. We’re gonna really let the people who who get here or want to be interviewed, whether it’s anonymously or not just tell their story in the way that they need to tell it. And we’re going to also talk to some psychologists, we’re going to talk to some subject matter matter experts. And we really just want to share tips on how to identify, start changing, you know, like, what, like, Nicola and I just did, like I just said, you know, I could have done X, Y, and Z, like, you know, we, we want to make sure that people are heard. And, you know, we also share tips about how you can change your situation. So what’s our next episode going to be about?

Nicola 25:48
We’re interviewing you about your toxic workplace experience, and it’s not related to the way that we meet. It’s about your past and your history and kind of the stuff that you’ve experienced in the past as well. So, you know, I think it’s going to be really, I think the first, you know, let’s say few episodes are going to be pretty juicy, because I think we’re pretty candid people. And we’re not going to hold back on, you know, the experiences that we’ve had.

Gina 26:17
Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, my, the one, the one workplace that I think I want to talk about is, it’s a little juicy, though it’s not they’re not no longer in existence anymore, but there was some inappropriate relationships happening. And yeah, it was, it’s interesting. And I know that you have your own sort of bindle of juicy things to talk about. We would love it if you could like and subscribe to our podcast and sidenote, leaving a review Ostell helps and less other, it lets everyone else know that we don’t stuck too bad. Just a little bit, but

Nicola 27:01
also more, right, it helps us create more, because it shows that there’s an interest in the topic and in toxic workplaces. And we’ll have

Gina 27:09
good change management in our podcast.

Nicola 27:14
You can find us on Instagram and LinkedIn. And this will also go up on YouTube as well. And for those of our listeners who do better with reading, we also will have a full script available with closed captions on YouTube as well. All right, so you’re welcome to reach out to us on our LinkedIn page or our Instagram page over a toxic workplace. And let’s break up toxic workplace stories. If you would like to be interviewed, we welcome you to share your story because we are all about solidarity. And if you’re listening today, it would be really cool if you could screenshot and share it to IG and we would love to give you a shout out on an upcoming episode.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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